Archives For Prayer

On Prayer

September 21, 2017 — 1 Comment

 

 

Christian. Ignite Hope.

Christian. Write.

Christian. Shine.

Christian. Unchain.

Christian. Gather.

Christian. Sever.

Christian. Bind.

Christian. Empower.

Christian. Sacrifice.

Christian. Love.

Christian. Say ”No”

Christian. Say “Yes”

Christian. Breathe.

Christian. Live.

Christian. Comment.

Christian. Eat.

Christian. Be Content.

Christian. Exercise.

Christian. Rest.

Christian. Obey.

Christian. Grow.

Christian. Go.

Christian. Listen.

Christian. Question.

Christian. Discern.

Christian. Fight.

Christian. Serve.

Christian. Repent.

Christian. Pray.

Christian. Learn.

Christian. Translate.

Christian. Interpret.

Christian. Apply.

Christian. See.

Christian. Encourage.

Christian. Challenge.

Christian. Walk.

Christian. Follow.

Christian. Seek.

Christi n . Be found.

Christian. Bless.

Christian. Hear.

Christian. Heal.

Christian. Forgive.

Christ     . Victorious.

….

 ‘The focal point of the Church’s action is the decisive activity of prayer…Because prayer is the decisive activity, prayer must take precedence…, and in no circumstances must it be suspended.’[1]

….

Christian.

Don’t forget.


References:

[1] Barth,K. 1938 Freedom Under the Word, C.D 1.2 Hendrickson Publishers 2010 p.695

{inspired by St.Patrick’s Breastplate}

One of my theology teachers once told me that his lecturer would kick start their history class by singing an old hymn.

He was so impressed by it, that he borrowed the idea. Consequently, our history lessons began the same way.

And as one does, I figured we could do the same. Singing just the lyrics.

The song choice wasn’t hard. ‘Be Thou My Vision’ has been on the top of my list since the late 90’s. Where I encountered an appreciation for it from my boss, an 84 year old Scottish lady named Irene, who also happened to like some of the more modern heavier stuff I’d recommend to her. Our kids also like the song, so I decided to spend a few hours putting together my own version of it.

As a song, the melody lends itself to almost any beat. As a prayer, it stands alone in its category.

LYRICS

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best thought by day or by night
Waking or sleeping Thy presence my light

Be thou my wisdom and Thou my true word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, I, Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one

Be Thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight,
Be Thou my armor and be Thou my might.
Thou my soul shelter, and Thou my high tower,
Raise Thou me heavenwards, oh power of my power.

Riches I heed not nor man’s empty praise
Thou mine inheritance now and always
Thou and thou only first in my heart
High King of heaven my treasure Thou are

High King of heaven my victory won
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s Sun
Heart of my own heart whatever befall
Still be my vision O Ruler of all [i]

 


[i] Circa. 8th Century, author unknown. Trans. Mary Byrne, 1905; Eleanor Hull, 1912

Arrangement and image are mine.

The Empty Side of Grief

February 19, 2016 — Leave a comment

Pic 12

Dynamic is the melody;

a bruised life;

frustrated forgiveness –

the empty side of grief.

The melody reaches for a resolution.

Like dry tears that lock up a grieving heart.

The melody is chained.

It struggles to flow;

to find wings beyond itself;

to be found by the enigmatic glow.

By beat and roar heaved towards foe,

the voice resolves,

its freedom aided by the simplest groan.

Answered by way of the smallest tone.

By grace it slows,

and

by these commanding whispers,

it soars above its woe.

‘Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.’
– (Paul, Romans, 8:26)


(RL2016)

Words and music are my own.

Review: Prayer, Karl Barth

November 1, 2015 — 1 Comment

Prayer_BarthKarl Barth’s, 1949 treatise on The Lord’s Prayer is like a series of exegetical notes placed together in readable format. The text takes the form of a conversational commentary. His thought is lit up by a consistent effort to place everything squarely at the feet of Jesus, ‘the Victor’; it is through and by Christ that we can pray with the certainty that our prayer is heard. Even within the sphere of human limitations we are given the grace and permission to pray. Barth’s main point is that because of this grace; this permission to pray, we therefore, must pray.

‘Faith is not something we carry about in our pockets as a rightful possession. God says to me, “Put your trust in me; believe in me.” And I go forward, I believe; but while going forward, I say, “Come to the help of my unbelief.” (p.10)

Barth infuses the topic of prayer, with prayer. Adding to this conversational tone Barth makes no clear mark for when the prose ends and the prayers begin. They overlap. Each prayer catches the reader by surprise; each prayer an important part of the treatise. (See pp. 34, 39, 42-43, 51, 56-58 & 63-64)

The infiltration is inadvertently deliberate. In ‘Prayer’ we encounter, Karl Barth the Pastor. He gives of himself in a pastoral capacity. Being weary and sometimes critical of showmanship, it’s not a common thing to find Barth putting prayer into academic writing in this way. It’s not common to find a theological text of Barth’s filled with such passionate appeals, which also function as pauses, intermingled with the text.

As much as they are for the Church to God, these prayers are personal. They represent a vulnerable Barth standing by real convictions. Though the early theological conclusions and post-war historical context show a work-in-progress, this picture of Barth’s hermeneutics illustrates both Pastor and Professor at his best.

‘Prayer must be an act of affection; it is more than a question of using the lips, for God asks the allegiance of our hearts.’ (p.19)

‘Prayer’ contains some of Barth’s most memorable stand alone statements. Lingering take away points abound.

These include,

  • ‘A sad and gloomy church is not the church!’ (p.37)
  • ‘May we pray that the Bible will not cease to hold our attention. May the Bible not begin to make us yawn, and thy word, in all its parts not become a boring matter in our minds and in our mouths; may it not become a bad sermon, a bad catechism, a bad theology.’ (p.34)
  • ‘The Kingdom of God is the final victory over sin.’ (p.35)
  • ‘We participate in His cause even as He participates in ours.’ (p.43)
  • ‘The most certain element of our prayer is not our requests, but what comes from God: His response.’ (p.66)
  • ‘Forgiveness is already given, and this is the reality by which we live… thou hast severed us from the past. In Jesus Christ thou hast made me a new creature.’ (pp. 56-57)
  • ‘The pardon of God enables forgiveness…To know how to forgive is not a merit, a moral effort, or a sort of virtue…Let us not settle down to enjoy the offense done to us; let us not nurse our grudges with pleasure. Rather, let us retain some humor with respect to our offenders. Let us have toward others this small impulse of forgiveness, of freedom.’ (p.55)
  • ‘Prayer must take the place of anxiety.’ (p.50)
  • ‘We are confronted by an accomplishment which is infinitely beyond our possibilities’ (p.36)
  • ‘God’s patience is a gift’ (p.51)

In ‘Prayer’, Barth notes, the consequence of grace is grounded in the revelation of Jesus the Christ. This is an intentional reversal of the consequence of sin. One provoked in humanity by an ‘evil that preoccupies us and causes us anxiety with it’s sly and insidious power.’ (pp.61-62).

This is the impact of God’s incarnation: Human freedom is made free by God’s love and acted out of God’s freedom for our benefit. It is by the consequence of grace – the uniqueness of Jesus Christ – that ‘the sinister wickedness of the enemy is unmasked’ (p.62). It is through Jesus Christ that we are unchained; that humanity becomes fully human; that we get to see again. Even for those who do not see it, ‘such a light already shines on them; grace has already embraced them’ (C.D IV:4, p.181). Because of Jesus Christ we pray; humanity is called to respond, called to become fully human through acknowledgement (faith) and participation (word, deed and attitude) with, for and in Him.

‘In Jesus Christ the human being is revealed. In him it becomes the creature par excellence, which cannot be, which cannot exist, or which cannot act alone…as soon as we have understood Jesus Christ, we have understood our humanity, our nature, our function, which are inseparable from God.’ (p.28)

Included in this exposition of The Lord’s Prayer is a discussion on the eschaton (kingdom come) and evil. It is both illuminating and vibrant. In a matter of a few pages Barth comes close to summarising his entire eschatology, theodicy and theology of evil. For him the substance of absolute evil is nothingness. It is that which God did not will or create. It is the ‘infinite menace…that is opposed to God himself and has imposed itself on creation’ (p.60).

Importantly, Barth makes a distinction between the ‘work of the Evil One and, moral and physical trials’ – the latter involves minor temptation, the former, supreme temptation;

‘one must distinguish between the two, for here it is not a matter of an ordinary threat which might be clearly perceived and resisted. It is the menace that, for the creature, carries with it not only a passing danger, a destruction of secondary importance, a momentary corruption, but total fall, ultimate extinction.’ (p.60)

Of  importance is the conclusion this follows: ‘because there is no humankind without God, atheism is a ridiculous invention.’ (p.29) Atheism is not just a rejection of the God hypothesis; it is ultimately the negation of creaturely existence; the supreme temptation of self-annulment. In short, humanity by itself is nothing. But, in Christ, God  affirms humanity. He has communicated Himself to the world. Given us hope; a cause and reason to pray.

 ‘God causes himself to be seen, because ‘the world cannot reveal God; it is God who knows how to speak of God. [and He has done so, freely and willingly]’ (quoting Blasé Pascal, pp.31-32)

Barth asserts that ‘in Jesus Christ the world has reached its end and its purpose.’ Expanding on his statement in Church Dogmatics II:I p.274, he writes:

‘…in Jesus Christ, God reveals that, while being perfectly free and self-sufficient, He does not wish to be alone. He does not wish to act, exist, live, labor, work, strive, vanquish, reign, and triumph without the human race. God does not wish, then, for his cause to be his alone; he wishes it to be ours as well…He permits us to pray, he commands us to pray…He invites us to participate in his work.’
(pp. 26-27)

‘Prayer’ provides a glimpse of Karl Barth’s personal faith. Unpacking the Jesus Prayer and with a relaxed tone, he delivers a prose on prayer that reads like a conversational commentary. The conversation between Professor and reader is underpinned by the prayers of a Pastor leading his Church to the feet of Jesus, who is now and will always be, Victor. It is because of this that we are enabled; given permission to pray; permission to load our ‘baggage’ (p.66) onto the God, who hears, chooses to hear and though He may seem silent for a time, is also willing to respond.

 ‘Jesus Christ has vanquished and He invites us now to participate in His victory […] Prayer is not an undertaking left to chance, a trip into the blue. It must end as it has begun, with conviction: Yes, may it be so!’ (pp.46 & 66)

Source:

Barth, K. 1949 Prayer, 50th Anniversary Edition Westminster John Knox Press

Medieval words that bounce off the page, and land in the present.

Cath_Siena quote 4_1

I have begun reading a second book from Barth’s Dogmatics. Having, probably rather oddly, chosen to read the final book first I have become comfortable with the text. Although I am uncomfortable with some of the challenges that coincide with reading his theological work.

I am already floored by the encounter.IMG_20131010_234503_20131013084158133

The picture above is from a bike ride my kids and I went on over the weekend. Adding these words to the image of a tree stump is not entirely random. The tree was used to make a bridge nearby.

For a log bridge, it both appears and seems secure.  I would hazard a guess and say that without the structural integrity of the trees it would be a useless pile of environmental waste. This made me question how easily our own self-imposed limitations can enable others to cut us down.

Words have meaning and the power of those words to cut, tear or encourage rests in the integrity of the dialogue partners to create something grace-filled from their exchange. God grants us this freedom to speak freely, firstly to/for Him and secondly to/for others. One sets the standard for the other because the former empowers the latter.

Barth wrote that:

‘Prayer can be the recognition that we accomplish nothing by our intentions, even though they be intentions to pray…Prayer can be the human answer to the divine hearing already granted, the epitome of the true faith which we cannot assume of ourselves. We do not speak of true prayer if we say “must” instead of “can”…

(Karl Barth C.D. 1:1:23 ‘Dogmatics as an Act of Faith’)

…‘Faith, regeneration, conversion, existential thinking on the basis of preceding existential encounter, are no doubt indispensable prerequisites of dogmatic work, yet not to the extent that they imply an experience and attitude, a desire and activity, a knowledge and achievement of the theologian, so that his theology is a personal cry, an account of his biographical situation, but to the extent that they imply the grace of divine predestination, the free gift of the Word and Holy Spirit, the act of calling the Church, which must always come upon the theologian from the acting God in order that he may really be what he does and what his name suggests’

(Karl Barth C.D. 1:1:21 ‘Dogmatics as an Act of Faith’)

From grace we are called. From out of that call, so may we speak. (2 Tim. 1:9-10)

Why? Not because we must, but because we can and therefore shall (David McGregor, Tabor Adelaide).

Hallelujah.

God’s got this…

Just keep breathing.

The palms of his hand may be nail scarred but they are outstretched, strong and reliable.

Those holes are Holy, his hands a living reminder of His commitment to life, to you and to me.

God has got this…

‘Fear not … stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks’ (Lk.12:32, 35-36, ESV)

God. has. got. this…